BANGKOK: Bangkok United head coach Mano Polking is targeting a trip to China as his side get set to host Hanoi FC in the Preliminary round 2 of the 2019 AFC Champions League (ACL) on Tuesday.
The prize for a victory is a play-off against Shandong Luneng and Polking hopes to ensure his team have the opportunity, two years after losing to JDT in a penalty shootout at this stage.
Not only would progress in the ACL enable the players to test themselves against the Chinese Super League side, but it would also give them a perfect platform for a strong domestic campaign.
“We know how it was two years ago and that’s why we want to do better,” said Polking. “It’s important for the psychology of the players to get a lot of confidence. With a win, we can get a new experience of going to China against a big club and all these things play a role in making the team more experienced and tougher.
“As we all know, we have brought in some good players this season. We want to be very competitive in the league and there would be nothing better than to start with a good win to start the season in a good way.”
Photo credit: Bangkok United
Hanoi FC have seven players from the Vietnam national side that won the AFF Suzuki Cup in December and then progressed to the last eight of the Asian Cup last month. Although Vietnam’s participation in both tournaments lasted longer than Thailand’s, Polking played down suggestions that potential fatigue may give the Thai side the upper hand.
“We don’t want to use this as a big advantage or as an excuse,” he said. “We actually have similar situations. We were also missing six (national team) players, including Michael (Falkesgaard) and they were missing six or seven.
“We saw them play in the Leo pre-season Cup without their national team players. They did a good job and made it to the final. The good thing for us is that while we were missing our players, they were also missing players.
“From a fitness point of view, in the Asian Cup, they did not go even a week longer than Thailand. Three or four days doesn’t make a big difference fitness wise.
“From the psychological point of view, we know how Vietnam is doing and what they have achieved in these two tournaments gives them a lot of confidence. They may be more tired, but they are also more confident and this creates a balance.
“It will be a tough game because they are a good team and their national team players come back after doing well in two very big tournaments.”
However, Hanoi FC head coach Chu Dinh Nghiem did suggest his team may not be at the top of their game after the exertions of the national side in the last three months.
“We just had the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Asian Cup, followed by the big holiday for the Lunar New Year, so my national team players may not be at 100 per cent yet,” Dinh Nhiem said. “But we will try our best to win this game.”